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Psalm 119:17-119:32
Key Verse: 119:18

Through last study on Psalm 119, we could learn that the fruit of the words of God is our pure hearts. In today’s passage, we can learn how to overcome the sufferings and trials of life as we live in this world as God’s people. Timothy 3:12 says “In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” Psalmist was also persecuted. These days, in the Olympics, we see many medalists crying out of joy because they remembered the days of bearing the hard training for the glorious moment. In our lives, there are moments of suffering that are hard to bear. How can we get through those times? Psalmist struggled to focus on the words of God. In this way, he could overcome hardships. May God help all of us to learn his strong desire and faith.

Part I. Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in your law.

Verse 17 “Do good to your servant, and I will live, I will obey your word” As mentioned, Psalmist was in great troubles. This prayer tells about two things about life. First, man needs God’s favor for living. Psalmist prayed “Do good to your servant” He called himself God’s servant which implies that he was obedient to God. But he suffered in ungodly environments. As we heard from Paulina in K country, when young Muslim students accept Jesus, they are persecuted by their family members. What can we do if we are in that situation? We cannot but help asking God’s favor upon us like Psalmist “Do good to us”. In other cases, our lives encounter difficulties such as health, future direction, job, relationship etc. Some people around us are ill or in particular life situations. Life problem is not easy to solve by ourselves. So we desperately need God’s goodness. In any kind of difficult circumstances we can ask God with humble heart “Lord, do good to your servant”. God’s goodness is our comfort in the midst of hopeless situation. God alone can help us and make our life good. May God help us to look at him who is good and who can show his goodness to us.

Second, we can learn that life should be driven by God’s word. Look at 17b, “I will live, I will obey your word” In other translation (MSG), I will live a full life. Particularly, this verse tells about what we should do after experiencing God’s grace. It is more important than when we receive God’s grace.

When God answers our prayer and our problem is solved, we have to bear his grace in life. This truly makes our life blessed. Like Psalmist, we should put God’s words in our first place and be ready to obey so that our life is completely driven by his words. Best example is Abraham. After Abraham had a son Issac according to God’s promise after 25 years life of faith, how he bore God’s favor? He sent Ishmael away for Issac. Later, when he had to choose God over Isaac, he chose God obeying his words. Abraham is a gold medalist in faith. why? Because he won over humanistic thoughts and finally chose God rather than any other things. Previously, he was a person who lived according to situation. But he became an obedient servant of God at any circumstance. In contrast example, there was story about Hezekiah, a king of Israel. He was very sick and his life was in a critical situation. He wept before God and asked his mercy. God sent his servants saying “I have heard your prayer and seen your tears, I will heal you” God also gave him a miraculous sign (moving shadow back 10 steps). He was healed. But right after when the messengers of strong neighbor country visited him, he became proud and did against God’s desire. God was displeased with it and said “everything in the palace will be carried off to Babylon.” God extended his life, but he couldn’t bear God’s grace and this influenced his descendants negatively. So, we must make our life driven by the words of God as Psalmist prayed “I will live and I will obey your word” It is right and beautiful decision.

Let’s look at verse 18 “18 Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in your law.” In his prayer, we could learn an important truth that God’s words contain wonderful things. Indeed, God’s word tells wonderful things one cannot find in the world. For example, regarding the existence of man, some people proposed that we are from anthropoid ape. But the bible says that we are created by God according to his image. “I am wonderfully and fearfully made” (Psalm 139:14) We are his masterpiece. Some other people think this world started by Big Bang, believing that everything is done by random without explaining the origin. But the Bible teaches that God created the heaven and the earth revealing that everything exists by him on purpose. People think that the end of life is death, but the Bible teaches that death is not end, there is resurrection. In this world, there are many things man cannot do. The bible says “with man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible. Jesus also encouraged people “if you have faith as small as a mustard seed you can say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there' and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” The Bible is filled with God’s marvelous works.

The Psalmist wanted to see wonderful things in God’s law. What kind of wonderful things he might want to see? It could be revelation about the glory of God and who God is, capturing his soul and mind and changing his life. It could also be God’s plan for salvation and victory over the sins and the enemies. What could be more wonderful than these for those who suffer from life under the power of sin and evil? In this regard, Jesus, the incarnation of God is truly wonderful. Isaiah prophesied Jesus’ birth (9:6) “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” Jesus came to the world and revealed who he was. He died for us and rose again in order to save us. God’s love through Jesus is so wonderful. John 3:16-17 “[16] For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. [17] For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” Jesus coming to this world and all his works were the accomplishment of God’s plan revealed through the scriptures and prophets.

However, as Psalmist prayed, we need to open our eyes to see God’s wonderful things. Here, opening our eyes means having the eyes of faith. When we see the situation with faith in God, we can see things differently. For example, when 12 Israel leaders went to explore Canaan land, only two, Joshua and Caleb could see the land with faith. They could receive God’s blessing. In Jesus’ days, a blind man was sitting and heard that Jesus was passing by. He shouted "Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!" and shouted all the more. Jesus asked “what do you want me to do for you?” “Lord, I want to see” He replied “Receive your sight, your faith has healed you.” He was blind but he saw Jesus with faith as a Messiah. His spiritual sight was open to Jesus and his physical sight was also restored. Having eyes of faith can’t be done by eye surgery. It needs God’s help. We need to pray to God like Psalmist. “Please open my eyes” When we meditate on the words of God, he will enable us to see his great work.

Look at verse 19a. “I am a stranger on earth” This is the correct view about our lives. Once we deeply accept God’s whole plan for our lives, we can realize that we are a stranger on earth. In other words, we are in pilgrim journey. As a stranger, what was his request to God for his life? “Do not hide your command from me.” In other bible translation (MSG), “Give me clear directions” When one doesn’t have a clear direction, he becomes the lost without knowing where to go and what to do. But, God’s command can direct our lives. On the contrary, life without God’s command will end up with wandering away like Cain who killed his brother and rejected God’s love and refused repentance.

Psalmist wanted to have God’s command so eagerly. He said “My soul is consumed with longing for your laws at all times” He was lovesick to God’s commands. In verse 21-22, God makes things right and rebukes the proud and restores the humble. Verse 23 “Though rulers sit together and slander me, your servants will meditate on your decrees” At the moment of emotional and mental disruption, he meditated on God’s word. It was because he found that God’s word could give him delight and counsel to overcome the slander of his enemy. “Your statues are my delight; they are my counselors” The words of God is our true good counsellor that leads us to victory over our enemies.

Part II. I run in the path of your commands.

In this section, Psalmist expressed his poor spiritual state and sorrow. Verse 25 “I am laid low in the dust; preserve (revive) my life according to your word.” “My soul is weary with sorrow; strengthen me according to your word.” (28) We don’t know what brought him down to such a low state. Probably he might have been in repeated persecutions and hardships and got blow punch by his enemy until he lost his strength, spiritually and mentally. Like him, we can also be caught in a similar situation in our journey of pilgrimage. But his prayer gives us clear answer how to overcome such state. “According to your word” is repeated. Revival and strength comes through God’s word. Because of that, we will not lose but win over our enemies. Even if life trouble hits us hard, we won’t stay down but bounce back up like a roly poly. Proverbs also said “for though a righteous man falls seven times, he rises again, but the wicked are brought down by calamity.” (24:16) Isaiah 40:29-31 also said “He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”

God’s word is our source of strength and revival. We cannot live a life of faith by our own strength. There are critical moments like dead-point of Marathon runners tempting them to stop the race. There is an impressive story regarding the race. In 1968 Mexico City Olympics Marathon game, a runner emerged through the stadium gate in the evening while the last few spectators were preparing to leave. The lone runner was John Stephen Akhwari from Tanzania. He was limping with his leg bandaged. But he finally finished the race. One asked him why you did not quit. He said "My country did not send me to Mexico City to start the race. They sent me to finish the race."

In order to finish the race of faith, we need strength. Psalmist knew that the word of God is the source of strength. His single desire was to receive God’s strength through his words. God’s word has a power to revive one’ life and strengthen us to live a life of faith to the end. Look at verses 26-30 “I recounted my ways and you answered me; teach me your decrees” “Let me understand the teaching of your precepts; then I will meditate on your wonders” “Keep me from deceitful ways; be gracious to me through your law. I have chosen the way of truth; I have set my heart on you laws. I hold fast to your statutes, O LORD; do not let me be put to shame” his strong desire was shown “meditating, understanding, holding fast, setting my heart, teaching me the words of God.”

What is his final direction and decision? V 32 “I run in the path of your commands, for you have set my heart free (enlarge my heart)” “I'll run the course you lay out for me if you'll just show me how.” (MSG) He wants his heart free. His heart was narrowed with anguish and sorrow. But God enlarged the heart through his words. He could understand the meaning of his suffering. When he meditated on God’s words, they touched his weary heart. He could see God’s victory. His heart was enlarged. He was fully recharged by his words and gained spiritual strength to continue to live a life of faith. Thinking about my life in Canada, I also had critical periods due to my practical difficulties and sins. Financially my family got through rough time. I could not have job for almost two years after graduation. I also made terrible sins before God. My heart got narrowed. That time, I could meditate the words of God while I was preparing SBC message. 1 Peter 4:12-13 “Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.” This word encouraged me so much and I could rethink of the meaning of sufferings in this world. The words of God refreshed my heart and life.

It is true that the words of God encourage those who are suffering for his name. The words of God also help us to see that numerous people of God cheered us for our race. More importantly, we could see Jesus who bore suffering to the end and gained a victory. So Hebrew 12:1-2 “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” When we meditate on this Jesus more and more, our hearts become free from all burdens of our suffering and receive new strength.

Suffering also removes impurity from our hearts. Psalmist expressed his desire. “I run in the path of your commands.” God’s commands are summarized into two; Love God and love your neighbors. Therefore, the verse indicates his new decision to love God and his people through teaching, obeying, and practicing his words. In other words, it means I will follow Jesus’ way, denying myself and taking up the crosses. Our spiritual life is restored by the words of God. This section started with his lower state but now he is ready to run like 100 m sprinter Usain Bolt with full of strength. What was the secret? It was the words of God. May God help us to overcome the life trouble by giving heart to the words of God until receiving his strength.

By David Kim

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